I was recently invited to teach a writing lesson to the students in my daughter’s classroom. It was an opportunity to bring together my two loves—teaching and writing. Yet, there was a moment of hesitation. For the first time ever, I wondered if my daughter would want me to come to her classroom. This summer she turned nine, and I’ve noticed that with her growing maturity comes new parental expectations.
I’ve noticed that around her friends and in social settings, my behavior matters. No longer am I allowed to act silly when transporting her friends in the car. And I am definitely not allowed to sing out loud. When I jokingly tease her friends, I get “the look” from my daughter. But these new parental boundaries don’t bother me. I was young once, and I distinctly remember when my parents’ behavior straddled a thin line between being socially acceptable and downright embarrassing. In order to maintain access to my daughter’s world, I am willing to conform to her parental expectations.
So I asked my daughter if it would be okay if I taught a lesson on word choice to her classmates. She gave me a whole-hearted YES and enthusiastically added, “Be sure to tell them about www.handsfreemama.com!”
Despite the fact that my daughter gave me her blessing to visit her classroom, I strived to keep her feelings in mind as I prepared the lesson. I collected several samples of writing for the presentation and consciously chose ones that did not involve my daughter. At one point, I laughed at the irony; here I was doing a lesson on word choice, and I was choosing my words carefully—striving to protect my relationship with my daughter above all else.
On the day of the lesson, I chose an outfit that I knew would be to her liking. I forgo my usual ponytail for a fresh wash and style. I wanted my daughter to ask me back to school again—at least until she enters middle school. (My friends with older children assure me that’s the point when I’ll consider myself lucky to get in the door for parent-teacher conferences.)
Like her classmates, my daughter greeted me with a warm welcome. As the lesson unfolded, she raised her hand to offer bits of information that related to the writing samples I displayed. There was only one time when the discussion steered a little too close to her comfort zone. At that point, my daughter put her head down on her desk in embarrassment. But as soon as it was time to start writing, she immediately got to work. My daughter seemed quite pleased to read the descriptive sentences she crafted—proudly displaying that the writing gene had been passed on to her. When it was time to go, I planned to play it cool and give her a friendly wave, but instead she ran over and hugged me fiercely.
I left the building feeling grateful I had chosen my words carefully—selecting words that made her feel comfortable, safe, and did nothing to embarrass her. It may seem unnecessary, ridiculous to some—but I believe such consideration matters. It is in these sensitive social situation where our behavior can either strengthen or jeopardize the bond of trust between parent and child.
Parental word choice: The words we choose matter.
As my daughter grows, the time I have with her is becoming more and more limited. She is quite content to do her own thing. She loves to spend time alone in her room and enjoys being with her friends. So when my daughter does invite me into her world, I am conscious of my behavior.
I monitor my facial expression when she tells me something shocking, disappointing, or trivial. If it matters enough for her to bring it up, then it matters—regardless of how maddening or petty it is to me.
I want her to keep confiding in me.
I listen to her when I am tired and wish she would be quiet. Even if her problem or question could be dealt with later, I take a deep breath and offer my attention and patience.
I want her to keep seeking my advice and guidance.
I encourage her to share her feelings when she has an opinion or proclamation about an issue. Even if I feel like smirking, laughing, or completely disagreeing, I hear her out.
I want her to continue telling me what she thinks, feels, and believes.
Parental word choice: The words we choose matter.
This is not to say I do not correct my child, guide her, or tell her when I am disappointed in her behavior. Because I do.
But I don’t do it in front of her friends.
I don’t do it on the pool deck at the conclusion of a swim meet.
I don’t do it in the presence of other adults.
I don’t do it online.
If there is something I feel she needs to work on, I talk to her privately. Why?
So she can maintain her self-respect and dignity.
So we can work through the problem without adding interference from outside sources.
So she continues to trust me in the challenging and sensitive areas of her life.
I will admit, sometimes it’s tempting to use public forums, like a group of parents sitting around at a sporting event or an online community, to air grievances when dealing with particular issues with my child. After all, we live in a tell-all society. Social media encourages us to share our inner thoughts and make private battles public. But to preserve the most sacred parts of my personal relationships and maintain trust, I choose not to offer personal issues for public discussion and consumption.
And so far, this appears to be the right choice for us—for this choice is validated each night at bedtime.
My nine-year-old daughter – who is maturing right before my eyes – still loves to have “Talk Time” with me.
In the dark solitude of her bedroom, I am the one she tells her deepest fears and poses life’s most important questions … just like she did when she started this ritual at age three.
And each night, when I walk out of her bedroom, I whisper a prayer of gratitude that tonight she wanted to talk to me. And I pray she will want to talk to me again tomorrow, and the night after that, and the night after that.
So I will do all I can to make these conversations happen.
I will continue to choose my words carefully. Because what we parents say matters. Where we say it matters. And to whom we say it matters.
There are just some parts of life worth keeping sacred.
What steps do you take to build and maintain trust and privacy in your relationships? What actions do you take to encourage your children/loved ones to share their lives with you?
Pam Moore—named Forbes Top 10 Women in Social Media and member of The Hands Free Revolution—has written an eye-opening article that highlights the ramifications of using social media to vent frustrations about one’s children. It is an enlightening read for anyone raising children in the digital age.
Thank you for being a part of The Hands Free Revolution … an encouraging community striving to keep a protective barrier around what (and who) really matters in life.